Saturday, 7 May 2011

Personal Review

This academic year has been one of my favourite years so far and before I even mention anything else I wish I was more enthusiastic from the beginning in doing the blogs as they are great fun once you get in to it and I even think my writing skills is getting better; well slowly getting better.

This course was a huge deal for me as I had wanted to do this course for approximately 4 years and I had to make sure I was up to speed with my drawing skills before starting it. The year before last I did art foundation course which was the largest increase in production as the amount of workload that I had at any given time was unbearable. For example in a space of one week we would be asked to research on a subject fill up to three sketchbooks, then do a minimum of 5 A1 pieces to better illustrate the point and do physical sculptures while doing these projects there would be life drawing sessions at some point and workshops such as glass and ceramics that I would need to attend to and think about expanding ideas using those workshops. The speed in which you do work is something  has improved drastically, which brings me to last years first year of game art.

I think I have slightly slacked in the visual design aspects this year. The main reason I think was that since we did so much visual design the previous year to game art, the amount of  minimum work that was expected in game art  seemed like nothing even though I learnt interesting techniques and improved in quality but the workload wasn’t as challenging as Art foundation which meant that I sort of naturally focused more on 3d as that was something I had never done before except fosome poor sculpts in zbrush once prior to the course and just like art foundation I tried my best to learn as much as I could possibly learn on that subject, mostly because I was such a complete stranger to it and this meant I had to invest like almost all of the time; so in a weeks I had probably done about half a day worth of visual design and all the rest of time I spent learning 3d.
The art works that I did this year was almost always sketchy speed paints and traditional finals. The speed paints helped me focus more of overall quality rather than detail which meant that I could basically do quick overall work rather than getting bogged down with detail to much and loose track to time . I think if I were to ask anyone that I know on game art what my paint style is, it was mostly been rough sketchy loose and something of that sort but this was not the way I usually used to paint at all, it was something I tried and kind of liked it as it was a great time saver.
…Meanwhile my 3d work was getting better and faster especially after spending so much time in the labs and pestering the years above. In about 5 months in the course I knew some of the underlying concept in modelling and 3d in general and got a good flavor on how to do various tasks.
-          model and how to do it efficiently
-          how to unwrap and maximise texture space
-          different ways and tools to produce normal maps
-          learn to use unreal dev kit and do basic scenes
-          learnt how to import assets in to Cry engine
-          learnt various way to bake a high poly mesh to low poly 
-          learnt about modularity in game levels
-          Learnt how to Render and present things a bit better.
-          Learnt about different lighting setups that I could use from School of architecture (ty jack)
-          Learnt to tile properly
-          Learnt more on edge flow when creating characters and experiments various topology.
-          Started learning Maya and cinema 4d
-          Learnt various ways to texture paint
-          Most of all improve in work flow and speed

Besides some of this stuff I spent quite literally several hundred hours watching tutorials from professionals to videos from YouTube on how getting an insight how the professional tackled the problems and how they overcome it.
I can honestly say if someone said to concept and create a character I would know almost exactly on how to do this but now I should use this knowledge and practice more and set my own projects with  realistic specifications to try and push quality when faced with difficult restriction.

The 2d aspects this year like I mentioned previously has improved in quality and mostly on solving visual problems rather than painting something beautiful because now every time I draw a character I think on how this would be modelled and the process in thought is slightly different to before. I seriously think that from this point onwards I would spend almost equal amounts of time on both 2d and 3d, I really want to push my 2d and show that I could do 2d as well as I could do 3d because like I said I haven’t spent any time this year on doing anything significant on 2d. I mentioned this because when I was talking to a bunch of students from Game art toward the end of year and it was interesting to hear what they thought of everyone and what everyone’s strengths are. This was really nice to hear because from the start of the course everyone showed their strengths so people who draw and painted, excelled more on that area throughout the course, of course they learnt 3d and got better at that too but from what I saw; the majority of work they produced were still the same and was in their specialised area from the start of the course. When students said my strength was 3d it occurred to me that this was something that was really a weakness less than a year ago and for students from the years above say that  made me realise how much I have progressed and how quickly I learnt it, so now that my 3d knowledge has increased and on par with 2d I can finally test it to see how I tackle  personal projects and finally invest more time on producing more quality work and quickly. I think the end goal for me at the moment is speed and efficiency because everyone can make a pretty model if they were given a years time but only  few can make that look just as pretty in less than 3 days, well depends on how complicated it is. I also want to improve my work ethic so I could consistently produce good quality work.
I will try my best to constantly be in the library everyday in the holiday and really research and completely become in sync with the project and once all the 2d is done i want to take advantage of the labs for 3d and regularly pester mike and chris for some suggestions and also want to start making threads in forums and get additional useful crits and get to know industry professional ( althought thats a little iffy).

Monday, 2 May 2011

Elements of Game Design 4 – Environment

The environment in video games have the important task to help progression in the game, it is the environment that the character will wonder across to meet every objective and so it’s the environment that is in charge to help the player believe in to reinforce the story and make a convincing setting.

The environment in games has always been a major component, especially when it comes to the art aspects of the game as this is supposed to enhance the game experience and convince the player. However this wasn’t always such a major contributor as the early video games the environment was almost like a vessel for the game play and it still is but the level of technology has increased.

Pacman was such a basic game in the sense that your objective was very simple and the game play was just as simple. The main objective is to collect the yellow dots (grains) and evade the coloured ghosts that try to eat you and while you collect these dots you can get a bigger dot which gives u the power to eat the ghosts for a limited amount of time while collecting fruits to get additional points. If we were to visualise Pacman in 3d the game will just consists of corridors after corridors full of grains. The modern video game still has the same principle as you still essentially navigate though corridors except now the walls are looking much prettier with incredible FX and other visually pleasing “stuff” to help you believe the illusion.

The environment in modern games has improved drastically since pacman as they its becoming much more of a focal point for some titles where they show off these highly realistic and interactive environments but most of the times the games still adapt the narrow corridors but now they are cleverly disguised to give the illusion that the character has more paces to but in reality there really is only one way.

Uncharted is a good example for good art direction as this game is of course very linear and adapt the same corridor game play style but it does and excellent job in setting the scene as they constantly referenced Mayan/Aztec/Tibetan civilisations to make believe on this location and they constantly included paintings and treasures that you can pick up.
This next game is not a visually astounding as uncharted but a game developed to push visual quality and gameplay.

“In Crysis 1, global tensions have reached boiling point as the U.S. and North Korea square off in the South China Sea.  At stake:  a mysterious artifact uncovered by a team of U.S. archeologists. The North Korean government quickly seizes the area, prompting the U.S. to dispatch an elite team of Special Forces operatives on a rescue mission. The battle to save Earth begins as the aliens' flash freeze the tropics into a ghostly-white frozen landscape. As gamers take up arms against the aliens, they will be outfitted with customizable weapons and a high-tech Nanosuit, allowing them to adapt their tactics and abilities to a hostile, ever-changing environment and a mysterious enemy.

With the sandbox-style gameplay in Crysis, players can choose their own path through the open world of the game, destroying obstacles, driving vehicles from Vertical Take-Off and Landing aircraft to boats and using the environment itself against the enemies.”

This game presented one of the most realistic environments I have even seen in a game environment and this was no average corridor game it was a full sandbox game and with completely destructible environments and and vehicles to get around it was a fun game to play ….if my computer can run it that is.

The idea of creating nice detailed visuals for a for an area which the player will run past in a few seconds seems like a waste of time but today environment assets are becoming more and more modular to to help them pull of detail environments without having to remake everything. The game engine technology is also allowing artists to get finished results much quicker than ever before.